Brendan French’s Pan-seared Crappie featured in fall 2014 KANSAS! Magazine

     My subscription copy of KANSAS! Magazine arrived yesterday. The fall issue explores frontier life in Kansas and my cooking-based article about Brendan French is titled, “From Wild Boar to Squirrel Stew,” pages 61-63. Yes, Brendan hunts, processes, cooks and eats both wild boar and squirrel, but his featured recipe is fish!
     Brendan is a fun-loving guy and I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing him and sampling his dish. I even took some photos (included to the left and below) but they do not compare to Jason Dailey’s professional photographs included with the story. Thanks to him and the editing skills of the staff, they made my story look really good. And, of course, it helped that I had amazing subject matter, too.
            When working with Katy Ibsen, Managing Editor of the magazine, she suggested I also interview a restaurant chef about current offerings. Just happens that a young man from Abilene works at 715, a bistro in downtown Lawrence. Barry and I both worked with Harrison Soelter at The Kirby House Restaurant so it was fun to see him in action at 715, and his quote “rabbit and trout are hot sellers at this ‘meatcentric’ bistro,” was a great addition to the sidebar “Then and Now,” comparing an 1871 Drovers Cottage menu to a restaurant's offering in 2014.
            The magazine is full of interesting stories and fantastic photography. For a sample copy, click on fall 2014, KANSAS! Magazine.
Brendan cooking on his patio.
Brendan French’s Pan-seared Crappie with Mushrooms & Asparagus
Brendan usually cooks up a blend of long grain and wild rice to accompany this dish.

6 crappie
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt (anything without iodine)
Pepper (green, white, or black)
½ cup of butter
20 sprigs asparagus
8 morel or crimini mushrooms
3 lemons (2 for deglazing and 1 for plating)
1 bunch chives, finely chopped

1)  Scale crappie, then fillet and remove rib bones. Leaving the skin on helps keep the delicate fillet in one piece.
2)  Heat olive oil, sauté shallots and garlic, before adding fish flesh side down. Briefly let the fish cook, approximately 2 minutes before flipping and finishing fish skin side down. Salt and pepper. Remove fish.
3)  In same pan, start to melt butter and begin cooking asparagus. When asparagus starts to shine and pick up a bright green color, turn up heat, and throw in morel mushrooms; sauté quickly and deglaze with 2 of the squeezed lemons.
4)  Plating Instructions: 3 crappie fillets per plate, top with asparagus, and then mushrooms. Garnish with chives and lemon slice.
Serves 4.
YES I did get to sample Brendan's delicious dish!
There was not room in the article to include this information but thought it might be interesting (at least to some) to include it with this post . . .
FROM SURVIVAL TO SPORT (based on documents at the Kansas Historical Society, archives, and online @

  •    700s and before — Native Indians use bows and arrows to fish and hunt small and large game, including mountain sheep in the northwestern part of Kansas. Hunting is necessary for survival and every part of the animal is utilized, even horns are hollowed out for spoons, and sinew becomes thread.
  •  1854 — Sarah Cummings, a young girl traveling across Kansas in a covered wagon, records the procedure for preparing buffalo jerky. Another 1880s recipe explains how to create pemmican by pounding dried buffalo, elk, deer or antelope to a pulp and then adding boiled tallow to create another protein-rich survival food.
  •  Late 1860s-1870s — Railroads organize hunting excursions across Kansas attracting sportsmen from all sections of the globe.
  •     1872 — Hutchinson News prints an item about a local hunter who fired into a large flock of wild turkeys and with a single rifle shot killed 11 birds.  
  •      1874 — British sportsman, William Weston, writes to a London magazine that a friend of his near St. George, shot 84 grouse, 933 quail and 59 rabbits during a three month period.
  •  1905 — The pheasant, a game bird of Asian origin, is introduced to the state.
  •  1909 — Lewis Lindsay Dyche becomes the fish and game warden of Kansas. He eventually lobbies for regulations that help protect endangered species and sets hunting seasons for most mammals and game birds. His efforts will help pave the way for many of the conservancy programs that have improved the sustainability of today’s wildlife. The Dyche Museum of Natural History, on KU’s campus, is named in his honor.
  •      1938 – Junction City Union reports, “Last week a fishing company that operates in the Kansas river south of this city, caught a catfish weighing 131 ½ pounds …”

And, here's a photo of Harrison Soelter with a fish dish he prepared for my dining pleasure at 715 in Lawrence, Ks. His quote about the menu at this restaurant is included in the article.

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